5 of the best transfer deals in English football – and their business lessons
A look at five of the Premier League's most eye-catching transfer deals and the lessons in them for Britain's SME owners.
The silly season of football transfers is finally set to end, meaning the turmoil and heartache suffered by fans of the beautiful game will soon be over.
Here's my take on five of the greatest signings the English Premier League has seen, and the lessons businesses might learn from the success of the deals. If you can think of a better transfer, tell us about it in the comments section. And if you have a business tip to go with it, so much the better.
1. Peter Schmeichel
Brøndby to Manchester United
When Manchester United bought Danish goalkeeper Schmeichel in 1991, £500,000 was worth significantly more than it is now - but it was still a snip for a player who Sir Alex Ferguson would later describe as "the bargain of the century".
Regarded as one of the best stoppers in recent memory, Schmeichel's skills between the posts helped United win five league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Not bad for a player who cost marginally more than you'd pay for a three-bedroom house in a modest part of London.
Business lesson: The cleverest and most effective investments are not always the most glamorous. Making moves that safeguard the future of your business with incremental gains may not set pulses racing, but they could ensure your long-term success.
2. Robin van Persie
Feyenoord to Arsenal
Arsenal picked up the then 20-year-old van Persie for £3m in 2004 - an absolute steal considering the British transfer record was an astonishing £30m at the time.
While it was clear the young Dutchman had plenty of promise, there were few who predicted he would go on to become arguably the best striker in the world.
Being one of only six players to grab 30 goals in a single Premier League season, van Persie found the back of the net a total of 132 times throughout his Arsenal career.
Business lesson: You don't necessarily have to match your competitors' level of investment to have a similar impact. If you see an opportunity to improve your quality for a relatively small sum, take it. Your ROI in percentage terms may end up comfortably eclipsing your rivals'.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United
OK, £12m is hardly a cut-price bargain in the football world - especially in 2003 and for a precocious teenager who hadn't been tested in one of Europe's top leagues. But when you consider Manchester United would later sell Portuguese sensation Ronaldo for a record-breaking £80m it's clear the original deal was a masterstroke.
Ronaldo's unbelievable skills helped bag his team three Premier League titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. The success he brought the Red Devils was priceless, and the £80m leaving gift was a decent legacy to boot.
Business lesson: The old adage 'you have to speculate to accumulate' is apt here. Sometimes you have an opportunity to invest heavily in raw potential that you know can be nurtured and moulded into something very special. If your vision is realised in future years, the dividends you reap may be enormous.
4. Kolo Toure
ASEC Mimosas to Arsenal
Another inspired signing by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, Ivory Coast defender Toure joined the North London club for £150,000 in 2002. This was the same year Manchester United paid £30m to their local rivals Leeds United for Rio Ferdinand, a player who operates in the same position as Toure.
Not only was Toure extremely cheap, he was an integral part of the Arsenal team that won the Premier League without suffering a single defeat in the 2003/04 season - an unprecedented feat that hasn't been repeated since.
Making 37 appearances in that historic season, Toure built a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell as Arsenal dominated England's top flight - despite costing less than some modern day players earn in a week.
Business lesson: It's often wise to spread your net wider then your own doorstep to find the best business opportunities. A cheaper, imported product from a relatively obscure supplier can often equal - or exceed - the level of performance from a source that's closer to home.
Rayo Vallecano to Swansea
Being the most recent signing on the list, Michu's name is synonymous with the word 'bargain' in football circles.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup watched the player on multiple occasions before deciding to take the plunge - and kept his mission quiet, benefitting from the fact that Michu plied his trade for one of the smallest clubs in the Spanish league. Although few English football fans had heard of Michu before he came to the Premier League, it's safe to say they knew his name by the time he'd plundered 18 goals in his debut season.
Big name strikers such as Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Demba Ba and Sergio Aguero all finished below Michu in the most recent goal scoring charts, and for a transfer fee of just £2m he's probably the bargain of the decade so far.
Business lesson: A carefully considered, balanced investment decision is usually the right one. Do your research before making a major business decision, but do it quietly because noise often causes competitors to act.